A 29-year-old man convicted of murder for using a chain saw to cut a hole in the door of his estranged wife's apartment before shooting her and killing her boyfriend and her fetus was sentenced to death Thursday.
William Keck was convicted last week of five counts - including first-degree murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter-killing of an unborn quick child - in the Nov. 3, 2008, shooting.
Keck fatally shot Jonathan Lestelle, 26, during an early morning attack at the Fountains at Villa Cordova apartments, 2800 S. Eastern Ave., near Sahara Avenue.
During the attack, Keck also shot his estranged wife, Angel Reyes, eight times. The 18-week-old fetus, fathered by Lestelle, was struck by at least one bullet during the attack and died.
Las Vegas police said Keck used a chain saw to cut a hole in the apartment door. He then shot the door knob off and fired 21 rounds through the hole.
The incident was recorded on a 911 call.
Keck told investigators he was "deeply in love" with his wife. However, he dated other women after the couple separated.
Keck's defense attorneys suggested he suffered from a mental disorder.
The emotional, two-week trial was followed by a two-day-long penalty phase that featured wrenching testimony from family members of Reyes and Lestelle.
Angel Reyes testified that before the shooting, Keck had threatened to shoot her in the stomach and kill her baby.
The jury deliberated about 90 minutes on Thursday morning before handing down the death sentence.
Following the verdict outside the courtroom, Reyes hugged prosecutor Giancarlo Pesci and wept. Both Pesci and fellow prosecutor Robert Daskas were brought to tears as they consoled the Reyes and Lestelle families.
"I'm amazed by the dignity and courage of this family," Pesci said later.
Daskas added, "The death verdict reflects the fact that the defendant took one life, destroyed a second life and prevented a third life."
The jury had four punishments it could have imposed, including death, life in prison without parole, life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years, or 20 to 50 years in prison.
However, Keck's defense team during closing arguments Wednesday asked the jurors to "cross out" the last two choices.
"Billy Keck (should) never walk free from jail again," deputy public defender Ed Kane said.
In a dramatic courtroom argument, deputy public defender Jeff Banks berated his own client and asked, "How dare you, Billy Keck, do that to those people?"
The public defender continued, "What he (Keck) did was horrible, terrible and inexcusable and no one in this room thinks otherwise."
But Banks argued there were mitigating factors that the jury should consider, including Keck's mental health issues.
"I'm asking you to lock Billy Keck up in a cage and throw away the key and let God decide when to take him out," Banks said.
In response, prosecutors accused Keck of faking his mental illness. Witnesses during the penalty phase, including Angel Reyes, said Keck had gotten an early discharge from the U.S. Navy by pretending to hear voices and cutting himself. The witnesses said Keck was proud he had duped the Navy and had "Section 8" tattooed on his arm, indicating a discharge for mental illness.
During his closing arguments, Daskas said Keck intended to kill Reyes and Lestelle and their unborn baby when he went to the apartment.
Daskas added that Keck also believed Lestelle's 3-year-old son, Trenton, was in the apartment when he shot 21 times from an AK-47. Trenton was with a relative at the time.
Keck was arrested about an hour after the shooting. Daskas said he had gone back to his own apartment and crawled into bed with his then-girlfriend after the shooting.
Daskas closed his argument by suggesting jurors might have a hard time imagining the fear and pain Reyes and Lestelle felt as they were being shot.
The prosecutor then played a 911 call made by Reyes, which recorded the shooting.
The courtroom hushed as a computerized voice said, "Nov. 3, 2008."
The blasts from the AK-47 were audible and the 911 operator immediately begged for an address, as Reyes and Lestelle screamed and hollered as they were shot.
"Help. Somebody help me please," Reyes yelled repeatedly. Lestelle made a gargling sound, choking on his own blood.
Reyes, who screamed pain, kept begging for help as the 911 operator kept asking for an address. Finally Reyes heard the 911 operator and gave their address.
As the tape ended, Daskas stood in front of Keck, pointed at the defendant and said, "He did that."
Daskas then asked the jury to punish Keck with a death sentence, as many in the courtroom choked back tears.
Keck told jurors he felt shame and remorse for what he had done. But "If I said I was sorry I would expect to be beaten. There is no sorry for murder. There can be no apology to erase agony. There can be only atonement or intent thereof," Keck said.
On Thursday, Keck's attorney said he would appeal the verdict, as is done in all death penalty cases. The appeal process in death penalty cases can take more than a decade.
Banks added, "Our compassion for everyone involved is unwavering. It's disheartening that the mentally ill can be executed. As for Mr. Keck, I will pray for his soul and I will appeal his case."
Keck still faces criminal charges in federal court in an unrelated assault at Lake Mead of a man who he believed was hitting on his then-girlfriend.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.